October 27, 2022
COVID-19 | Public Schools
CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice will not support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students attending public schools.
“Within all my power that I have, West Virginia will not … mandate COVID-19 vaccines for kids,” Justice said during a news conference. “I can’t promise [that I won’t be] overridden or whatever it may be, but in all my power I do not think that that’s the right thing to do.”
The governor encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated against the virus, but said that parents should have a choice in the matter. He said he will do everything in his power to prevent the federal government or the Legislature from mandated COVID-19 vaccines in the state’s school system.
Vaccination mandates for public schools are generally decided on the state level. West Virginia lawmakers did not pass any COVID-19 vaccination requirements during the pandemic.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that COVID-19 vaccines be required for public school attendance. ACIP suggested the vaccine be added to the routinely recommended vaccine schedule.
“It’s important to note that there are no changes in COVID-19 vaccine policy, and today’s action simply helps streamline clinical guidance for health care providers by including all currently licensed, authorized and routinely recommended vaccines in one document,” read a CDC release.
During his news conference, the governor also discussed the current spread of the virus in West Virginia. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’s color coded map, most states are in the “green,” which means infection rates and the threat of spread is low. Eight counties are in the “yellow,” which is a slightly higher risk and one county is in the “gold,” which is slightly worse than “yellow.” There are not any counties in the “orange” or the “red,” which show higher risks of contracting COVID-19.
“We’ve still got to watch,” Justice said. “It’s going to get colder.”
The governor reminded residents that the omicron variant vaccine booster shot is available and he encouraged people to get the shot, especially if they are 50 years old or older.
West Virginia is still in a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice said the state does not have any funding that is dependent on the state of emergency declaration and he said he may revisit the declaration. However, he said he is focused on other issues at the moment.